Firm News & Updates

With distance-learning the norm now, can I record my child’s class session?

Special education attorney Jeffrey Forte of Fairfield County is interviewed by CT Post reporter, Jo Kroeker, about whether or not parents can record their child’s class session during distance-learning.

https://www.ctinsider.com/news/coronavirus/ctpost

Darien parent Tricia Bresnahan said her son, a seventh grader, benefits both from the group instruction online for general education and, when it starts, one-on-one support for his special-education needs. As the district moved online, she said her top priority was to make sure he was learning, and concerns of privacy were secondary to communicating with teachers and peers online.

In the new world of distance learning for kindergarten through 12th grade, teachers are finding different ways to hold classes.

Some record themselves teaching and put the videos online or in programs that students have access to. Others host classroom discussions via videoconferencing apps, from Google Hangouts to Webex to Zoom.

The use of videoconferencing apps has raised questions about whether these lectures can be recorded. Recordings could be helpful for students to review for homework or shared with another student who could not log in at that time for one reason or another.

But is that allowed?

The answer is “it depends.”

Teachers are able to record their online classes and share those recordings with students who were unable to attend, without breaking federal privacy laws protecting students’ educational records, said State Department of Education Chief Performance Officer Ajit Gopalakrishnan.

But to respect the privacy rights of all students, Gopalakrishnan said superintendents should ask parents not to record virtual class sessions, “unless necessary related to access or special education.” In such cases, the district may wish to request a case-by-case conversation with the family, he said.

Districts were waiting for this guidance because recordings could breach student privacy.

Jeffrey L. Forte, who specializes in special education law, said there are restrictions on recording teachers. Connecticut is a two-party state for recording, and parents would need a teacher’s — and more likely an administrator’s — consent.

Instead of going down that route, he recommends parents keep a written log, noting whenever students respond to lectures or experience difficulties with homework or logging on.

“It’s going to make parents more informed participants,” he said. “They have this unique opportunity to see into their child’s education more intimately.”

Using their electronic devices, parents can also take videos or record audio of their child working through math in, for example, a Google Hangout, he said.

“At the end of the day, there are going to be students for whom remote learning won’t work because of their disability,” he said. “That is really where parents should be focusing their efforts on at this time.”

Tricia Bresnahan said she is keeping records of the special-education services her son has received and when they started.

“Some services just aren’t happening,” she said. “Students definitely are not getting what they usually get.”

The more data a parent can collect — documenting whether their child received instruction, how long they were on the computer and if they engaged — the easier it will be for a parent of a special-education child to ask the district to re-evaluate their child to see if they progressed or regressed, Forte said.

Bresnahan, who has a front-row seat to her son’s education, has seen how the 7th grader has progressed in some of his Zoom classes. In some ways, the virtual platform lends itself to inclusion more than the physical building, she said.

In one class, everyone heard the same lecture, but ahead of time, her son received notes with information highlighted and when there was a quiz after, his was modified.

“Everybody is there at the same time, everybody leaves the class at the same time,” she said. “There were times during the year where he would leave while everyone is doing something else, which I don’t think is the best way to handle inclusion. In some ways, this is more inclusive.”

But with the move to online learning, some districts sent out documents asking parents to agree to terms before receiving remote instruction. One of those conditions was not to record the child or teacher instructing the child, Forte said.

“That they cannot do,” he said.

In the weeks since, a lot of those districts have retracted the signature requirements, Forte said.

Superintendents are encouraged to tell parents not to record lessons, and districts should consider whether parents should be permitted to opt-out of live videoconferencing opportunities, Gopalakrishnan said.

However, it is inappropriate for districts to condition students’ access to educational opportunities on parents signing legal waivers, he said.

Coronavirus & Compensatory Education: Students with disabilities are missing out during COVID-19

As Published by The Hartford Courant
By Jeffrey L. Forte, Esq. Op-Ed Contributing Writer

To See The Hartford Courant Article, click here or read below:

Students with disabilities are missing out during COVID-19

By Jeffrey L. Forte, Esq.

Of nearly 550,000 students currently enrolled across Connecticut’s 200 school districts, there are some 80,000 students with disabilities in special education programs. For many of them, school closures effectively halted — or at the least, diminished — their special education and related services.

Services such as small group or one-on-one instruction, paraprofessional support, daily counseling, physical therapy, academic tutoring, speech and language therapy, and behavioral and/or psychological support cannot practically and effectively be delivered by computer, despite best efforts. Given the suddenness of school closures, the economic impact of parents losing jobs, and the lack of technology support that teachers, parents and students are now facing, it difficult to remotely educate students with significant disabilities.

With school closures continuing into late May and perhaps beyond, the gap widens in educational services for students with disabilities. Parents, teachers, administrators and school districts must collaborate and candidly agree that the crucial question to answer is not whether students with disabilities will regress educationally, but rather to what extent will they regress and how will remediation be handled.

Parents and educators alike should be collecting data on their child’s education to compare pre-virus performance to performance during and just after the remote learning period. To that end, there will be a need for statewide compensatory education for our most vulnerable students with disabilities.

In March, the U.S. Department of Education issued guidance on federal education law as a result of school closures caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. The relevant guidance for special education, in summary, is that schools providing educational opportunities to the general student population during a school closure [i.e., by providing online learning], must ensure that students with disabilities also have equal access to the same opportunities, including the provision of free appropriate public education to the greatest extent possible.

As well, the government said that if a child does not receive services during a closure, a child’s school team must make an individualized determination about what compensatory services may be needed to make up for skills that may have been lost.

Many hours of ambitious and meaningful learning have been lost during this school closure period, despite the very best intentions of teachers and school districts. Remediation and compensatory education will be required on a systemic level for students with disabilities to get back to near where they left off before schools closed.

Compensatory education, often referred to as “comp-ed,” is not a “cash payout.” It is not a monetary award that one would typically receive if involved in a civil lawsuit. Rather, comp-ed serves as the appropriate remedy to fund permissible educational services such as tutoring, therapy, evaluations, assessments and other related services that were lost or not delivered during a certain period of time.

Generally, the amount of comp-ed is valued either qualitatively or quantitatively. The quantitative approach is determined by numerical data, such as counting the number of service hours not provided or implemented. The qualitative approach is more about gaining insight and information to determine a student’s baseline versus present level of performance. That is followed by development of a plan to more fully educate a child with additional support, minimizing and hopefully reversing a student’s academic or cognitive regression.

Regardless of the approach, it is important for parents to understand that empirical evidence, such as the collection and documentation of their child’s daily data during the school closure period, will be useful to share with your child’s school team to support your request for compensatory education.

Parents and school district teams need to work collaboratively to determine what compensatory education will make each individual student whole. The process is unique and based on each student’s individual needs, it is not a one-size-fits-all approach.

Jeffrey L. Forte is a special education attorney and certified child advocate. He is the founding member of Forte Law Group LLC of Shelton and Rocky Hill. For more information visit www.fortelawgroup.com

Coronavirus & School Bullying: Protecting our Asian American Students

The coronavirus has caused yet another unexpected serious problems in the lives of Americans – coronavirus bullying. Yes, unfortunately it is a thing. Because the coronavirus originated in China, there unfortunately has been an increase in the harassment, assaulting and targeting of Asian American families throughout the US. This type of racial hatred is not only unamerican and divisive, but is also inherently discriminatory, illegal and a violation of civil rights. As a result, on March 16, 2020, the United States Department of Education (USDOE) issued nationwide guidance calling on all school districts across the country to ensure that the civil rights of students are protected in order to continue to keep our students safe and secure.

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI), prohibits discrimination based on race, color, and national origin by schools receiving federal funds. Moreover, under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), as well as Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), school districts must also prohibit discrimination based on a student’s disability. Thus, school districts should be mindful of their legal requirements under Title VI, Section 504 and Title II to ensure that all students affected by the coronavirus outbreak are able to study and learn in a safe educational environment that is free of discrimination, including during the period of school closure where students are accessing remote educational opportunities online.

In Connecticut, bullying is generally defined as the use of verbal or physical acts directed at a student that causes physical or emotion harm to such a student so as to create a hostile educational environment. Bullying includes any verbal and physical acts or gestures that are based on or perceived to be discriminatory based race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or express, socioeconomic status, academic status, physical appearance, or mental, physical appearance, or from any mental, physical, developmental, or sensory disability.

Each school district in Connecticut is required to develop and implement a safety school climate plan to address the existence of bullying in schools. Schools are required to provide teachers and staff with training on bullying. It is important for parents to know that a school must notify the parents or guardians of students who commit any verified acts of bullying and the parents or guardians of students against whom such acts were directed not later than 48 hours after the completion of the investigation. The school must then invite the parents or guardians of a student who commits any verified act of bullying and the parents or guardians of the student against whom such act was directed to a meeting to communicate to such parents or guardians the measures being taken by the school to ensure the safety of the student against whom such act was directed and to prevent further acts of bullying.

Bullying safeguards prohibit and protect students from bullying on school grounds, at a school-sponsored or school-related events, at school functions or programs whether on or off school grounds, at school bus stops, on a school buses, and for any acts that occur outside of the school setting if such bullying creates a hostile environment at school for the student against whom such bullying was directed, infringes on the rights of the student against whom such bullying was directed at school, or substantially disrupts the education process or the orderly operation of a school.

Parents are encouraged to file a formal bullying complaint with the local school district immediately after any bullying incident occurs. The procedure in which to file a bullying complaint can be found on your local school district website.

For more information on preventing student bullying and harassment, visit www.fortelawgroup.com

Searching for the Right Connecticut Special Education Attorney in Fairfield County or Beyond?

Do you need to hire a special education lawyer in Connecticut for your child, but you don’t know where to start? Join me as we briefly discuss and learn the importance of hiring the right Connecticut special education attorney for you and your child with a disability. Whether you live in Fairfield County, Middlesex County, Hartford County or elsewhere in Connecticut, hiring the right special education lawyer is a critical decision. In this video and article below, let us briefly walk you through what you should look for.

Thinking of Hiring a Connecticut Special Education Attorney for your Child?

By Jeffrey L. Forte, Esq. | Forte Law Group LLC | www.fortelawgroup.com 

If you and your family are thinking of hiring a special education lawyer and live in Connecticut, you are in luck. Connecticut has a small, but very strong and experienced group of parent special education attorneys. We are a tight knit, collaborative group of legal professionals with a profound desire to help families of children with special needs. Many of us, in fact, are parents of a child with a disability ourselves. My youngest son is on an IEP for dyslexia.

The most important decision is deciding which Connecticut special education attorney is right for you and your child. Many of us have different styles, approaches, and connections. So, finding (a) the right fit for you (b) that suits your child’s needs, (c) coupled with the experience and credibility level of the right attorney is critical to advance your child’s case. I will more fully answer this question in just a moment, but first let’s briefly understand the special education process here in Connecticut.

What is the Special Education Process Like in CT?

Briefly speaking, the special education process should “typically” “follow these steps:

  • Step One – The parent or a teacher notices a deficit, delay or challenge in your child’s learning process and refers your child for initial eligibility for special education.
  • Step Two – Your child is “comprehensively” evaluated by a team of clinical professionals and educators within your local school district to address each of your child’s deficits and delays. The evaluations should include, among other things, academic, cognitive, psychological, behavioral, social, and emotional assessments, as well as possible literacy, speech/language, psychiatric, occupational, and/or physical assessments as deemed necessary.
  • Step Three – Your child is then identified and diagnosed with a disability that impacts your child’s access to his or her education.
  • Step Four – A 504 plan or IEP is then developed for your child with specific and measurable goals and objectives to address your child’s challenges that are ambitiously appropriate.

The entire special education process is designed to be “collaborative” and “non-adversarial” in nature, meaning that you and your local school district team work together, as one team, to mutually develop an ambitiously appropriate educational plan and related services that are uniquely designed to help your child make meaningful progress year over year. The process is designed so that you and your local school district team do not need lawyers. Sounds simple and straightforward, right? Well, that’s not always the case. Perhaps that is even why you have stumbled across this law article.

Unfortunately, the reality is that the special education process does not always go smoothly, despite even the best intentions of some members of your child’s school team. There are flaws in its design. Oftentimes the special education process can be adversarial in nature. It may become adversarial when you ask for items such as an independent educational evaluation, increase in service hours, related services, a change in placement, paraprofessional support, OG or Wilson trained instruction, ABA services, ESY and the like and your local school district team denies your request. In other words, the school district team says “NO” to something that you, as a parent, feel is critically and clinically important to have on your child’s 504 plan or IEP. Even worse, you may not even get that far because your child may have been denied special education eligibility in the very first place. Sometimes, but not always, school districts take advantage of you, because the fact is that most parents do not know special education laws or the rights of their child with a disability.

This is the time to have a legal consultation with the right Connecticut special education attorney. You should hire a special attorney as soon as your local school district decides to become adversarial with you and challenges you by denying services or placement that you feel is appropriate for your child.

Should You Hire an Advocate Instead?

You may be asking yourself, why not just hire a special education advocate instead, or, just handle your child’s education yourself without an attorney or advocate. There’s an old saying about lawyers – “the lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.” Because you are the parent of your child, it is nearly impossible for you not to be emotional and objective when it comes to the determination as to what constitutes a legally appropriate education for your child with a disability. You need the right attorney on your side that is going to zealously represent you and all of your child’s special educational interests – no matter what – to the fullest extent as mandated by the law. This is where the right Connecticut special education lawyer is important to have on your side.

Limitations & Scope of Advocates

Special education advocates serve a very important and helpful role for the services that they provide. As a special education attorney, I work with several well-respected, highly established professional special education advocates throughout Connecticut and often provide parents with referrals to those advocates and vice versa. If you decide to retain a special education parent advocate, you will want to research their experience, certifications and credentials. For example, did they complete COPAA SEAT, William & Mary Law School Institute of Special Education Advocacy Clinic, or have they taken a Wrightslaw advocacy training program? Have they shadowed a special education lawyer? Are they certified as a special education parent advocate? Certainly, the right special education advocate can help you prepare for an IEP meeting and attend the meeting with you in order to assist you with communicating your child’s needs. However, that is typically where an advocate’s services end. Anything more than helping you to prepare for or attending an IEP meeting can legally and ethically be considered Unauthorized Practice of Law (UPL). If a non-attorney advocate that is not licensed and admitted to practice law within Connecticut provides you with legal advice or assists you with preparing for mediation, filing for due process or reviews a settlement agreement, or anything that otherwise maybe considered “legal action,” the advocate is committing UPL. Experienced advocates know this and will refer you to a special education attorney at the appropriate time. Moreover, unlike lawyers, advocates are not legally or ethically required to take mandatory continuing legal education to keep informed and up to date on the latest laws and cases in special education.

A special education lawyer does not have the limitations that an advocate does. Thus, even if your advocate has done great work, which most that are certified and experienced do, it can often be discarded by districts and all the hard-earned dollars that you have invested may end up being for nothing in the long term. That is why I always recommend parents to have an initial legal consultation with a special education lawyer first in order to develop a strategic legal plan of action, which may or may not include collaboratively working with an experienced advocate as well.

While many advocates are excellent, in that they are certified, trained and experienced, or have substantial knowledge from being in the field of special education for years, special education attorneys are legally trained to understand special education legal procedure, rules of evidence, have knowledge of school district lawyers, state mediators, hearing officers and judges. Special education lawyers know how to conduct direct and cross-examination of witnesses, write legal briefs based on case law, know who, where and how to obtain critical expert evaluations and how to quickly and legally analyze FERPA documents, IEPs, evaluations, and legal discovery. Perhaps most importantly, the right special education attorney knows how to “preserve the record” at an IEP meeting for due process and/or federal court appeal. Attorney’s fees in special education due process cases are also often recoverable, while advocate fees are not. Thus, if you succeeded at due process, you may be entitled to receive all or some of your investment back. A comprehensive legal consultation with the right special education attorney will fully inform you about the strength of your case. Lastly and most importantly, you shouldn’t skimp on legal services when seeking to legally protect the civil rights of your child with a disability. You wouldn’t skimp on other services your child needs, (i.e, medical appointments, therapy, equipment) right?

Price vs. Value

A great colleague of mine, Christine Lai, Executive Director of Connecticut’s Special Education Legal Fund (“S.E.L.F”), recently wrote an excellent article about special education lawyers in the nutmeg state, entitled “A Parent’s Guide to Connecticut Special Attorneys.” Christine’s research found that special education attorneys in Connecticut charge anywhere from $250 to $450+ an hour. Alternatively, some Connecticut special education attorneys charge a flat fee for a certain period of time within the range of $5,000-$7,500 for a specific type of legal service. Some attorneys charge for an initial consultation, some do not. Mediation costs typically exceed $10,000 and due process hearings can cost north of $50,000 all in with attorney and expert fees. Regardless of a special education attorney’s hourly rate or flat fee charge, and various rates for mediation and/or due process, Warren Buffett said it best when he said: “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” There is another interesting article I recently read on Forbes by contributing writer Amy Rees Anderson, entitled “Nothing is More Expensive Than A Cheap Lawyer.” …The title speaks for itself.

Finding the Right Connecticut Special Education Attorney for You & Your Child – Ask Questions!

So how do you find the right special education lawyer for you and your child? First and foremost, personally go and meet with special education attorneys. Note, when meeting with a special education attorney, it is important to realize that it is a two-way street. Just like you are interviewing the attorney, the attorney should also be interviewing you. What I mean by this is the right special education attorney should be evaluating the strength and weaknesses of your child’s case from the moment you first call. What are the strengths (and weaknesses) of your child’s potential case? What is the end result that you are seeking for your child? What is your style like, compared to the style of the attorney you are seeking? What does the lawyer’s website say, does the lawyer even have a website? Has the attorney recently presented or published on recent developments in special education law? Does the lawyer currently serve on any non-profit boards? What community involvement does the lawyer have in the disability community? Has the attorney handled special education cases within your local school district? Does the attorney have previous experience in handling the type of disability that your child has? What software and systems does the attorney have in place to ensure your child’s confidential medical, psychological and education records remain confidential, encrypted and HIPPA compliant? Will the attorney you are interviewing with be handling your child’s case all the way through, or will parts of your child’s case be freelanced to another attorney or law firm associate and if so, who, where and why? What is does client availability look like for the attorney? Who answers the office phone? Does the attorney or law office staff immediately return your call and provide a straightforward answer? Does the attorney have law office staff? Does the attorney have an office? If not that’s okay, but where does the attorney typically meet with a new client? What technology does the attorney use for the benefit of client communication and exchange of information? Will the attorney provide you with a recent or past client reference? Does the attorney keep you fully informed on billing? Does the attorney have any online reviews? (For example, you can read and view my client reviews here: http://www.fortelawgroup.com/endorsements/). What type of professional relationship and reputation does the attorney have within your local school district and, more importantly, with the lawyer or law firm that represents your local school district? Will the attorney’s approach damage or mend you and your child’s relationship with your local school district? Are you seeking a lawyer with a litigious and aggressive approach right out of the gate that will draw blood first, or an attorney that is legally strategic, but not immediately combatant with your child’s school team? What experts does the attorney use and what results have those experts achieved for other children? Lastly, special education attorneys are after all people too, often with a family member of their own that may have a disability. Does the attorney have anything personally or professionally going on that may prevent or mitigate his or her fullest legal attention to your child’s special education case?

In summary, I strongly advise any and all parents of a child with a disability to have a comprehensive initial legal consultation with the right Connecticut special education lawyer first.  The consultation should be scheduled the minute you believe your child’s school district is becoming adversarial with you or you believe your child is being denied the right to receive a free appropriate public education that your child is legally entitled to receive.

For more information or to read other scholarly law articles, visit www.fortelawgroup.com

Coronavirus & Comp Ed: Ensuring Our Children with Disabilities Are Receiving a FAPE

By Jeffrey L. Forte, Esq. | Forte Law Group LLC | www.fortelawgroup.com
A Special Education Attorney & Certified Child Advocacy Law Practice

As we all come to grips with the new temporary norms across our country due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical that we understand and fully appreciate the impact this outbreak is having on special education and related services to our students with disabilities and their families. It is absolutely essential that families make informed decisions about the educational wellbeing of their children with disabilities by consulting with their local education agency. It is also equally important that families know their child’s rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) during this crisis situation, including their potential rights to compensatory education (“comp ed”).

What is Compensatory Education?

Under the IDEA, local educational agencies (LEAs) are legally obligated to provide all children eligible to receive special education and related services with a free appropriate public education (FAPE). If your LEA does not give your child the special education and related services they are supposed to be providing as forth in your child’s IEP, your child may be eligible to receive compensatory education. Compensatory education is a compensation fund so to speak that helps your child catch up on lost time, hours and related services for the duration of when your child was denied a FAPE. The amount of time and services that your child missed is referred to as compensatory education.

Is Your School District Closed, Open or Available for E-Learning?

If your LEA is closed and is not providing any educational opportunities to the general student population during the COVID-19 outbreak (i.e., school closure similar to a snow day), then your LEA is not legally required to provide services to children with disabilities during the same timeframe. The problem arises, however, when your LEA decides to offer online learning or e-learning alternatives to the general student population, even if voluntary, while not offering the same opportunities for specialized instruction and related services to students with disabilities pursuant to their IEP or 504 plan. In essence, your LEA, despite its best intentions, is providing educational opportunities to “some” students, but not others and therefore is not legally compliant.

Just this week, the United States Department of Education (USDOE) issued guidance to LEAs on how to appropriately handle providing special education and release services to children with disabilities during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (“COVID-19”) outbreak.[1] The USDOE provides guidance that your LEA “must ensure that, to the greatest extent possible” each student with a disability be provided the special education and related services set forth in the student’s IEP or 504 Plan. The present concern that parents should inquire about is how their LEA is going to ensure that a student with a disability receives their IEP or 504 special education and related services “to the greatest extent possible” during the school closure. I anticipate this is where a plethora of compensatory education claims will need to be examined and provided once schools are back in session. The anticipated issues will include to what extent and amount of compensatory education will legally need to be provided.

How is Compensatory Education Calculated?

Generally speaking, the starting point in determining any compensatory education award is by showing when a parent knew or should have known about their child’s denial of a FAPE. To put this into context, if your child’s LEA decides to remain closed, but starts to offer e-learning programming for general education students, but not the same to children with disabilities, you should mark and enter that date down in a journal.

Next, you need to look at what educational benefits would have accrued during your child’s denial of a FAPE period. This requires you to examine both the qualitative and quantitative benefits your child would have received had your child been offered a FAPE. There is no “cookie-cutter” approach to this analysis since your child’s education is specialized and uniquely designed to meet his or her needs.

Lastly, it is critical that you keep and maintain a sufficient record of your child’s right to claims of compensatory education. An impartial hearing officer cannot appropriately determine the amount of your child’s compensatory education claim unless you as a parent are able to provide the hearing officer or mediator with sufficient insight as to the precise type of educational and related services your child missed in order further to promote your child’s progress as set forth in your child’s IEP goals and objectives and service hours.

My firm and I are actively monitoring updates from the USDOE as well as following how LEAs are offering educational programming to students with disabilities in order to ensure our children are being appropriately education to the greatest extent possible during COVID-19 outbreak.

Q&A for Parents

Q&A for Parents: What You Need To Know Relating to a School District’s Responsibilities to Provide Special Education & Related Services to Children with Disabilities During the Coronavirus Virus Outbreak

By Special Education Attorney Jeffrey L. Forte, Esq. | Forte Law Group LLC

The United States Department of Education just issued guidance to local school agencies on how to appropriately handle providing special education and release services to children with disabilities during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (“COVID-19”) outbreak. While the spread and concerns of the COVID-19 outbreak continues, this blog is intended to provide a brief “need-to-know” for all parents of a child with a disability on how this impacts your child’s Section 504 or IEP based education.

QUESTION 1: Is my local education agency (LEA) legally obligated to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to my child with a disability during the COVID-19 outbreak?

ANSWER 1: NO. Specifically, if your LEA has decided to close its schools to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak, and does not provide any educational services to the general student population, then your LEA is not legally required to provide services to students with disabilities during that same time frame. 


QUESTION 2: If an LEA continues to provide educational opportunities to the general student population during the COVID-19 outbreak, is my child with a disability also entitled receive the same educational opportunities that are being provided to the general student population during the school closure?

ANSWER 2: YES. Your LEA must ensure that your child with a disability has equal access to the same educational opportunities as the general student population during the school closure, including the right to a FAPE, pursuant to the legal provisions of the Section 504 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Moreover, your LEA “must ensure that, to the greatest extent possible” each student with a disability be provided the special education and related services set forth in the student’s IEP or 504 Plan.[1] The present concern that parents should inquire about is how their LEA is going to ensure that a student with a disability receives their IEP or 504 special education and related services “to the greatest extent possible” during the school closure. Arguably, I anticipate this is where a plethora of compensatory education services hours will need to be made up and provided once schools are back in session. The anticipated issues will include to what extent and amount of compensatory education will legally need to be provided. 


QUESTION 3: If my child with a disability contracts COVID-19 and is absent for an extended period of time while school is open, must my LEA provide special education and related services to my child?

ANSWER 3: YES. If your child with a disability contracts COVID-19 while your LEA is open, your child may be eligible to receive special education and related services by way of homebound instruction arrangements with your LEA. 


QUESTION 4: May an IEP team consider a remote or distance learning plan in your child’s IEP if the COVID-19 outbreak causes school closure?

ANSWER 4: YES. Though not required, IEP teams may include and provide for remote and distance learning plans in your child’s IEP. Such a plan would be considered a “contingency provision” and may include delivering your child’s special education and related services at an alternate location or via online or through virtual instruction to the extent that such instruction is meaningful. Such a plan should be discussed as an IEP team. 


QUESTION 5: My LEA school district is closed, but my child with a disability attends a private therapeutic out of district special education school that is open. Is my child’s LEA obligated to continue to transport and educate my child at my child’s out of district specialized placement?

ANSWER: NO. Please see question and answer 1. If your LEA is closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, then all students are not attending school and therefore your LEA does not need to provide transportation or education for your child at your child’s out of district school. That said, you should call your child’s out of district school and inquire if it is continuing to remain open and decide whether or not you want to arrange for your own transportation to and from your child’s private school.

To view the US Department of Education’s recent guidance, click below:

https://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/memosdcltrs/qa-covid-19-03-12-2020.pdf

Basics & Overview of the IDEA

By Jeff Forte, Esq.

Fairfield County Special Education Attorney Jeff Forte discusses the basics and general overview of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in this parent empowering tutorial video.


If you suspect your child may have a disability, then it is critical that you to become familiar with the special education acronym and legal term “IDEA.” IDEA stands for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. It serves as the governing legal authority for all special-education and related services that a child with a disability receives throughout a child’s academic tenure within the public-school system.

The IDEA was originally enacted in 1975 by the U.S. Federal Congress. At that time, it was referred to as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act. Over the years since then, it has been reauthorized and is now referred to as what we now call it today the IDEA.

The basic premise of the IDEA is that it is a federal special education law which requires each state that receives federal education funding to comply with both the procedural and substantive requirements of the IDEA. When a parent knows or suspects that their child has a disability, the IDEA is the law that parents should become familiar with in order to more appropriately advocate for the special educational rights and related services of their child.

One of the most critical aspects of the IDEA that is important for parents to understand is just because your child has been clinically diagnosed with disability does not necessarily mean that your child is eligible to receive a special education and related services under the IDEA. Under the IDEA, there are three main requirements.

The first requirement is age – a child may be eligible to receive a special education between the ages of 3 through 21 years of age. The second requirement is disability – there are 13 disability categories that a child may be found eligible under the IDEA. The last requirement is the most important one – a child’s disability must “impact their access” to receiving an education in order to qualify for special education and related services. If a child is found eligible for special education, then the child is entitled to receive special education and relates services through the development an Individualized Education Program, or called an IEP.

Attorney Jeffrey Forte is interviewed by the CT Examiner on mediation and non-disclosure agreements in Connecticut special education litigation.

On October 22, 2019, Attorney Jeffrey Forte was interviewed by CT Examiner news reporter Julia Werth on mediation and non-disclosure agreements regarding Connecticut special education litigation. Below is the link to the news article. Continue reading “Attorney Jeffrey Forte is interviewed by the CT Examiner on mediation and non-disclosure agreements in Connecticut special education litigation.”

Fairfield County Parent Magazine publishes special education article authored by Jeffrey Forte

The September 2019 issue of Fairfield County Parent Magazine featured a leading article authored by special education attorney Jeffrey Forte entitled, “School Refusal Requires Immediate Action.” The article includes practical tips on how to address a child’s anxiety and school refuse within the IEP.

>> The September 2019 issue of Fairfield County Parent Magazine

Connecticut Parent Magazine publishes special education article authored by Jeffrey Forte

The September 2019 issue of Connecticut Parent Magazine featured a leading article authored by special education attorney Jeffrey Forte entitled, “School Refusal Requires Immediate Action.” The article includes practical tips on how to address a child’s anxiety and school refuse within the IEP.

>> The September 2019 issue of Connecticut Parent Magazine

Lawsuit Pending After Teacher Posts Video Showing Norwalk Child Misbehaving in Class

William Hornyak and his wife, Mary Ann Choeun, found out through friends that one of their son’s teachers had posted to social media a video of him “acting up” in class. Now, the couple is planning to sue that teacher, the town of Norwalk and the town’s school board.

The attorney for the parents of an 8-year-old boy whose teacher allegedly posted his misbehavior in class on social media has filed legal documents that are a precursor to a lawsuit with the Norwalk town clerk’s office.

read more: https://www.law.com/ctlawtribune/2019/04/18/lawsuit-pending-after-teacher-posts-video-showing-norwalk-child-misbehaving-in-class/?slreturn=20190812150833